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Disillusion sets in as Togo’s opposition coalition crumbles

The coalition has meanwhile been hit by a corruption scandal relating to a 30-million CFA franc donation

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A protester wears a T-shirt with the inscription "Faure Must Go" during an anti-government rally in Lome

Afiwa Yogue sells material for a living in Togo’s capital, Lome, and is disillusioned with the West African country’s opposition leaders.

“We walked for months under the hot sun and sometimes in the rain, hoping to bring about the end of the regime,” the 34-year-old trader told AFP.

“But we were deceived, as the leaders of the opposition only fight among themselves. We’re tired of them.”

A coalition of 14 opposition parties came together more than 18 months ago to protest against the government of President Faure Gnassingbe.

In September and October 2017, there were huge marches on the streets of Lome and several other big cities in the north, calling for Gnassingbe to step down.

He has been in power since the death of his father in 2005. His father ruled Togo with an iron fist for 38 years.

But the size of the protests has dwindled and in the last two months there have been none. The last demonstration was on January 26 and few people turned out.

Seven of the 14 parties have since left the coalition, including the Panafrican National Party (PNP) of Tikpi Atchadam, the driving force behind the initial protests.

The National Alliance for Change (ANC) of opposition stalwart Jean-Pierre Fabre and the Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) of ex-premier Yawovi Agboyibo have followed.

They have complained about the direction the group was taking.

“Some think we need to restructure the coalition and give it a charter,” said PNP secretary-general Kossi Sama earlier this month.

“We don’t agree because that’s not what we need for the fight, it’s mass mobilisation.”

Fulbert Sassou Attisso, head of the Another Togo party, said there had been few positives about the campaign in the last 18 months.

“We are all to blame for this new setback,” he told AFP after his party left the coalition.

“But it’s down to the political culture of the Togolese opposition since the start of the fight (against the Gnassingbes) in 1990.”

Lack of coherence

Those left in the coalition on March 12 acknowledged the grouping’s failings, conceding it had “not achieved any of the objectives it set”.

“The development of the coalition has been marked by a lack of cohesion and confidence, with the result being unstructured action,” it assessed.

Togo’s opposition has been calling for constitutional reforms to reintroduce a two-term limit on presidents and the adoption of a two-round voting system at elections.

It also wants the release of all prisoners arrested during the wave of demonstrations. About 60 people are still being held.

The coalition has meanwhile been hit by a corruption scandal relating to a 30-million CFA franc donation.

One of the grouping’s leaders last week confirmed it had received the donation from a regional leader but insisted it was used for organising demonstrations.

Attah Hinnou, 44, runs a service-station in Lome. He said Togo’s opposition leaders only looked after themselves.

“The people got behind them again but they disappointed us again. Every time it’s the same thing: petty squabbles, mistrust, and so on,” he added.

Since moves began towards a more democratic political system in 1990, Togo’s opposition has often lacked a coherent strategy.

Attempts to field a single unified candidate have always failed just before presidential elections, leaving the door wide open for the Gnassingbe regime.

The opposition has also boycotted parliamentary elections, notably those in 2002, which allowed the government to amend the constitution in its favour.

“The boycott of the December 20 parliamentary elections last year caused consternation in the coalition,” said Edouard Baglo, a political scientist.

“The grouping’s leader are well aware they made a serious mistake, after months of struggle. 

“The ruling party is totally comfortable in parliament with 59 deputies out of 91, not counting those of allied political parties.”

Throughout the process, opposition leaders condemned “irregularities” in the vote, even though African Union and ECOWAS observers said it was “free and fair”.

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Ethiopia mourns death of army chief, top officials after failed coup attempt

Amhara president, Ambachew Mekonnen, army chief and other top officials died from Saturday’s foiled coup attempt

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Ethiopia mourns death of army chief, top officials after failed coup attempt
(File photo)

Ethiopia held a day of mourning Monday, reeling from the murder of the army chief and the leader of Amhara state in two attacks believed linked to a coup bid in the northern region.

Flags in the capital Addis Ababa flew at half mast after a day of mourning was announced on state television.

“All of us will remember the people who lost their lives for our togetherness and unity,” a television announcer said, reading a statement from parliament speaker, Tagesse Chafo.

Related: Ethiopian army chief, regional president shot dead in Amhara coup attempt

“It is a sad day for the whole nation. We have lost people who were patriotic. They are martyrs of peace.”

On Saturday afternoon, the president of Amhara, the second-largest of Ethiopia’s nine autonomous states, was in a meeting with top officials when a “hit squad” attacked, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said.

Amhara president, Ambachew Mekonnen as well as his adviser were killed, while the state’s attorney general also died from injuries.

Abiy took to national television dressed in military fatigues and described the situation in Amhara as an attempted coup.

A few hours after the attack in Amhara, army chief of staff, Seare Mekonnen was shot dead in his Addis Abeba home by his bodyguard, in what the government said appeared to be “a co-ordinated attack”.

Amhara, in the northern highlands, is home to the ethnic group by the same name, and the birthplace of many of its emperors as well as the national language Amharic.

The Amhara are the second-largest ethnic grouping after the Oromo, and both spearheaded two years of anti-government protests which led to the resignation of former prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.

Abiy, an Oromo, took power in April 2018 and has been lauded for a string of efforts to reform a nation which has known only the authoritarian rule of emperors and strongmen.

He has embarked on economic reforms, allowed dissident groups back into the country, sought to crack down on rights abuses and arrested dozens of top military officials.

However, his efforts have unleashed deadly clashes, with ethnic tensions bubbling to the surface, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.

Analysts attribute this violence to the releasing of the iron grip of government, stirring bitter rivalries in local politics and prompting a jockeying for power and positions.

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National Oil Company warns that any attempt to disrupt the sector would escalate unrest

“Any deliberate disruption of oil sector operations will severely impact national revenue streams, potentially render NOC in contravention of contractual obligations

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Libya's National Oil Company in the capital Tripoli. The Oil company warns against shutdown as it it will escalate conflict

Libya’s National Oil Company has warned that any bid to tamper with the sector could escalate unrest in the country after the parliamentary speaker called for a halt to production. In a statement issued late Saturday, NOC said it “is concerned by recent calls for the shutdown of national oil production”.

“Any deliberate disruption of oil sector operations will severely impact national revenue streams, potentially render NOC in contravention of contractual obligations, and create further division in the country.” Libya has been in conflict since the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival administrations vying for power and to control its oil wealth.

The conflict has been exacerbated since April when commander Khalifa Haftar, who is based in the east of the country where most oil fields are located, launched an offensive against the capital Tripoli. The city is the seat of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), while the elected parliament which supports Haftar is based in eastern Libya.

Last week parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh Issa said oil production must cease, accusing the GNA of using oil revenues to finance the militias fighting Haftar, in an interview with an Egyptian news channel.

The country’s oil company, which is headquartered in Tripoli, has repeatedly insisted on its neutral status and refused to be drawn into the conflict. “This crucial source of income to the state, vital to all Libyans, must remain de-politicised and uninterrupted,” NOC said on Saturday.

But it also called for “economic transparency – including the equitable distribution of oil revenues nationally – to be embraced by all parties as an integral element of Libya’s future stability, and any lasting political settlement”. Libya’s oil revenues are managed by the country’s central bank, which is also based in Tripoli.

Both Haftar and the eastern parliament have repeatedly said that oil revenues are not evenly distributed and accuse the GNA of using the funds to finance its militias. Last month UN envoy Ghassan Salame said that Libya – which produces more than a million barrels of oil a day – was “committing suicide” and plundering its oil wealth to pay for the war.

On Saturday he met Haftar to discuss the Tripoli offensive and ways to “accelerate the transition towards reaching a political solution” in the country, the United Nations said.

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Court in Sudan orders authorities to resume internet services

Internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections was cut across Sudan by the ruling military council

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A Sudanese woman works at a travel agency in Khartoum on June 17, 2019 as businesses struggle to keep their services going after being hit by an internet blackout.
A Sudanese woman works at a travel agency in Khartoum as businesses struggle to keep their services going after being hit by an internet blackout.

A Sudanese court Sunday ordered authorities to end a nationwide internet blockade imposed by the ruling generals after a deadly crackdown on protesters earlier this month, a lawyer said.

Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed on June 3 by men in military fatigues, who stormed a weeks-long protest camp outside the army headquarters in Khartoum where they had camped to demand that the generals step down.

Internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections was cut across Sudan by the ruling military council, with users saying it was done to prevent further mobilisation of protesters.

Lawyer Abdelazim al-Hassan said he had filed a petition against the blockade, and on Sunday a court in Khartoum ordered that the services be resumed.

“I had filed the case 10 days ago and Judge Awatef Abdellatiff ordered the telecommunications department to resume the internet services immediately,” Hassan said. Authorities can appeal the decision.

For the generals the internet and social media are a threat.

“Regarding social media, we see during this period that it represents a threat for the security of the country and we will not allow that,” military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi said earlier this month.

The internet blockade was an attempt to quell new protests against the generals, who have so far resisted to hand power to a civilian administration as demanded by demonstrators, protest leaders say.

Tens of thousands of protesters were mobilised through online social media apps during the months-long campaign against the now ousted leader Omar al-Bashir.

Protest leaders have resorted to neighbourhood campaigns to keep their movement alive, with activists mobilising supporters in night-time gatherings, witnesses said.

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